24 Vintage Manners That Have Shifted From Classy to Cringy

Old woman on phone

My childhood memories are filled with riding my bike to a friend's place after school or just turning up at people's places on weekends. The rule was to be back for dinner. There was no such thing as arranging a playdate. All my friends' parents were Mr. or Mrs. someone — not a first name.

Today, things are very different. The idea of someone showing up unannounced is odd, and I cringe at the thought of someone calling me Ms. Winter. Change is inevitable, however, and some vintage manners are no longer used.

1. Unexpected Company

Woman knocking on door
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The idea of someone turning up with no warning causes a lot of anxiety in people nowadays, but thirty or more years ago, it was typical for a friend or neighbor to stop by for a chat without prior notice.

2. Smoking Around Others 

Parent smoking in car with little girl
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Stop Smoking campaigns in the 80s and '90s had an impact. Back in the day, it was considered polite if you blew the smoke away from a person or used the smoking area of a restaurant. Now, smoking around anyone — especially children — is just downright a big NO.

3. Not in Constant Contact

Man, waving, park, hello, happy, backpack
Image Credit: ViDI Studio/Shutterstock.

Before the internet and smartphones, people didn't worry if they didn't hear from someone for a few days or weeks. It was standard that you might go a week or more before seeing a friend. Now, if someone doesn't text you back quickly, we wonder what's happened. In many cases, people consider it rude. 

4. Ashtrays at Kids' Parties

Ashtray on table
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Can you imagine attending a kids' party at Chuck E. Cheese and, as a courtesy, the host has put ashtrays on the dining tables for the adults? No? Well, it used to happen! While it's still considered polite in some countries, I'd be insulted if someone even smoked near a child.

5. Varying Meanings of Ellipses

annoyed woman
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When I was growing up, an ellipse was a simple pause in a sentence or, if used at the end, a suggestion. They're now a form of passive-aggressive attack when texting. Even a full stop can be seen as someone being abrupt. 

6. Answering the Phone

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In these days of scams and telemarketers calling your cell, many people prefer to screen their calls — especially if it's an unknown number or a private one. Thirty years ago, that would be strange and impolite. More so because, in most cases, you had no idea who was calling your landline.

7. Giving Kids Food Without Permission

Boy, kid, child, eating, sandwich, food
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In the 80s, if Joey's friend Sam turns up on his bike after school, you'll probably give him something to eat. The idea of allergies, particular diets, and asking a parent if it's okay for Sam to eat certain foods wouldn't have seemed normal. 

8. Reading the Newspaper 

Reading newspaper, man, breakfast,
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It was normal and not considered rude for family members to read a newspaper at the breakfast or dinner table. If you were to do the same thing on your phone nowadays, that would be terrible manners.

9. Phone Manners

Happy pretty blonde on the phone outdoors on urban background
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There used to be a particular way of answering the phone that was considered polite and standard. It was typical for many people to answer the phone with “Hello, your name speaking,” and to finish the call with a “Bye.” However, even that sometimes doesn't happen anymore.

10. Calling Instead of Texting

Cell Phone, Text Messages, texting
Image Credit: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock.

At some point in time, texting became more polite than calling. The idea is that they could be busy, and a text is quicker than a call. I've always had a bit of phone anxiety, so I don't mind this transition at all. When text messaging and email first came out, you only used them in very casual situations.

11. Game Show Hosts Kissing Female Contestants

Family Feud Richard Dawson
Image Credit: Mark Goodson Productions.

If you watch any old shows on the Game Show Network, you'll notice some things that wouldn't work on a similar show today, such as hosts who make it a point to kiss all the female guests. Try watching them some time and feel the cringe.

12. Calling Someone Ma'am or Sir

Annoyed woman dining out
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In Southern states, this is still standard practice, but it feels very strange to someone from anywhere else. If you're a woman over a particular age, it makes you feel old rather than the respect it conveys.

13. Referring to a Wife 

Older, elderly, woman, man, meeting, shaking hands, business, signing papers
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I'd forgotten about this one. Referring to a married woman by her husband's full name was considered polite. For example, “This is Mrs. Edward Smith.” It was, thankfully, something that was phased out due to feminism. 

14. Parenting Other People's Kids 

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While this behavior was acceptable in the past, nowadays, parents are more inclined to respond with a “this is none of your business” attitude. Criticizing a child publicly for behavior you disapprove of was once seen as a regular and respectful practice.

15. Commenting On Someone's Weight

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Image Credit: Shutterstock.

If you've lost a lot of weight, it's nice when someone comments on your efforts, but in many cases, people won't say a word today because it might offend. Back in the day, it was the norm. 

16. Expecting a Thank You Note

overhead view of a woman writing thank you cards on her desk
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In the past, it was often considered impolite if you didn't make an extra effort to purchase stationery to express gratitude through thank you notes for gifts, dinner parties, or when someone did something nice for you. However, in modern times, such actions might be considered excessive, and a simple “thank you” is generally considered sufficient.

17. Patting a Child's Head

Patting head, boy, child, kid, touch, hand
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It was normal for a random person in a grocery store to pat a child's head. It might be followed with a “good girl/boy” because the child behaved well in some way. Can you imagine a stranger touching a child today? No matter the good intention, this just wouldn't work.

18. Tipping 15% at Restaurants

Tip percentage, tablet, pay, waiter, waitress
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Tipping is an ingrained and standard part of American culture. However, 15% or even 10% would have been considered a good tip not too long ago. Now, it's not even close. Many feel if you choose 15%, you're either a stingy customer or unhappy with the service.

19. Asking Inappropriate Questions

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No one would have considered you rude if you asked when someone was getting married or going to have children. Given that there are more choices these days, it makes sense that these types of questions are inappropriate. 

20. Striking Up Conversations With Strangers 

Suspicious Woman 2
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People are more likely nowadays to keep to themselves and respect other people's personal space. Approaching someone to get to know them was standard practice many years ago — especially when there was no other way to meet people. Now, people are more wary.

21. Offering To Help Someone With Their Groceries

Grocery help, elderly man
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Offering assistance to someone with heavy groceries was once widely viewed as a kind gesture. However, in modern times, some individuals may prefer to handle such tasks independently, and offering help without being asked could be perceived as intruding on their self-sufficiency.

22. Referring to Someone as Honey or Sweetie

Waitress, woman
Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV/Shutterstock.

I still come across this in the Southern states. It's normal to hear waitstaff refer to someone as “baby” or “honey” — it's part of the culture. However, in most other places, the only people who say this are usually older women and men, saying it would be downright weird. 

23. Making Kids Kiss Adults

Mom gift Mother’s Day kids
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I don't know about you, but I always dreaded this as a child. Being asked to go and show affection to someone I didn't know or like because my parent thought it was a sign of respect was pretty normal. Today, forcing a child to do something that uncomfortable would be wrong.

24. Welcoming a New Neighbor With Food

Bring food to neighbor
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One of my friends still does this, making me cringe every time. It was the standard thing to do before the 90s. However, now I imagine food poisoning and lawsuits, and even without all that, it seems weird to make a stranger's food when you have no idea of their preferences.

Author: Ree Winter

Title: Journalist

Expertise: travel, food, history

Bio:

  • Expertise: Travel, History, Food
  • Education: Monash University, Australia
  • Over 400 articles published in newspapers, magazines, and across the web

Ree Winter is a versatile journalist hailing from Australia and now making New Orleans her home. Ree's passion for solo travel shines through as she expertly tracks down fantastic flight deals and accommodations, sharing her extensive travel experiences with readers. With a Master's degree in Journalism and a Bachelor's degree featuring double majors in history and literature, she brings a unique blend of skills to her work. Ree's historical expertise extends to the world of architectural history, where she has worked as a tour guide in historic house museums. But her journey doesn't stop there; she's even delved into the art of coffee as a barista, running a coffee van at events and markets, making her a genuine connoisseur of coffee preparation. Today, Ree channels her insights and expertise into sharing these topics with readers at Wealth of Geeks.